October 23, 2014

Obama Will Win

President Barack Obama will be reelected tonight.  It’s as simple as that.  Mitt Romney couldn’t handle Obama’s hard earned grassroots strength.  The way things look right now, Obama will take Ohio and Florida — two states Romney simply could not afford to lose.

This is huge — and Asian Americans will have played a major role in Obama’s victory.  One case in point:  the battleground state of Nevada (one-seventh Asian American).

More on this later.

— Gautam Dutta

Don’t Buy the Hype

With less than 2 weeks to go until Election Day, media talking heads are saying the presidential race is “very close” or “tied.” From a national poll perspective, such statements are true. But from the electoral college perspective (which of course is the only one that matters), they are blatantly false.

While Romney certainly could pull the upset, despite media reports to the contrary, Obama is a heavy favorite to win re-election. Consider: Electoral Map The electoral map strongly favors Obama. He already has in the bank many more electoral votes than Romney. As far as the battleground states, with the lone exception of North Carolina, Obama has led or been tied in every one since early summer. He currently leads in Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Winning these 7 states give Obama 281 electoral votes, 11 more than he needs to win. In fact, he could afford to lose New Hampshire and either Iowa or Nevada and still win re-election with 271.

Furthermore, Obama is tied in Colorado, Florida and Virginia — losing any one of these 3 states would be fatal for Romney. Even in North Carolina, Obama trails only slightly. If he wins there, it’s a near-2008 blowout.

Romney’s Momentum Stopped

The Romney campaign obviously wants to create a winning self-fulfilling prophecy. Romney clearly won the first debate with Obama, significantly closed the gap and got back in the game. Had Romney lost that debate, the race would have been over. However, Obama won the next 2 debates. The Romney camp keeps babbling about momentum they lost lost long ago. By definition, polls are snapshots of the RECENT PAST, not the PRESENT.

Media Bias

The media has an incentive to say the race is close because it’s exciting. It means higher TV ratings and readership. The media also can be lazy. It’s easier to report on one meaningless national poll than on several state polls where the race will be decided.

Obama’s Ground Game Romney backers claim that they’ve learned from 2008 and have a much better ground game. They probably do — but that’s because the McCain campaign’s ground game stunk.

But even the most optimistic Republicans admit that Obama’s operation is formidable. Most neutral observers think Obama’s ground game is superior than Romney’s, it’s only the degree that’s in question. Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia are frequently cited as the states where Obama has the biggest advantage in this department.

Early Voting

Related to the ground game is the early voting already taking place in many battleground states. Every day in states where polls are open and Obama is leading means that he is winning, because he’s banking votes that Romney will have to make up on Election Day. By all accounts early voting is going very well for Obama, including in the most critical state of Ohio.

Colin Powell

Obama just scored the biggest endorsement of the election season with Colin Powell. Powell, although he endorsed Obama in 2008, would have surprised few had he remained neutral or endorsed fellow Republican Mitt Romney. While there are only a tiny sliver of undecided voters left, and endorsements may not sway that many, you can bet that Romney would have given one of his dancing horses to get Powell’s backing.

Richard Mourdock

Just when Republicans thought Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin was in the rearview mirror, along came Richard Mourdock to reinforce the perception (or reality) that Republicans are at war with women’s rights. You would think that after Akin, any Republican running for U.S. Senate, particularly in a tight race, would avoid using the four-letter R word. Oops. Romney, who not only endorsed Mourdock but cut a TV commercial for him, half-heartedly distanced himself from Mourdock and refused to ask that the TV spot be pulled. The timing couldn’t be worse for Romney.

Again, it’s not over until it’s over, but anyone discouraged about Obama’s chances shouldn’t be. Barring some huge late October or early November surprise, or serious voter suppression and/or fraud, Obama is on the path to victory. But he still needs your vote, your donations and your volunteering in a swing state.

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman: WILL 9 GOP GOVERNORS ELECTRONICALLY FLIP ROMNEY INTO THE WHITE HOUSE?

Editor’s Note: We repost the below from Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman who have co-authored 5 books on election protection, including the latest WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION? available at HarveyWasserman.com and FreePress.org.

Fitrakis/Wasserman: WILL 9 GOP GOVERNORS ELECTRONICALLY FLIP ROMNEY INTO THE WHITE HOUSE?

by Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wasserman

Nine Republican governors have the power to put Mitt Romney in the White House, even if Barack Obama wins the popular vote. With their secretaries of state, they control the electronic vote count in nine key swing states: Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Arizona, and New Mexico. Wisconsin elections are under the control of the state’s Government Accountability Board, appointed by the governor.

In tandem with the GOP’s massive nation-wide disenfranchisement campaign, they could—in the dead of election night—flip their states’ electronic votes to Romney and give him a victory in the Electoral College.

Thankfully, resistance has arisen to the disenfranchisement strategy, which seems designed to deny millions of suspected Democrats the right to vote. The intent to demand photo ID for voting could result in some ten million Americans being disenfranchised, according to the Brennan Center at New York University. Other methods are being used to strip voter rolls—as in Ohio, where 1.1 million citizens have been purged from registration lists since 2009. This “New Jim Crow”—personified by groups like True the Vote ( New York Times Article)—could deny the ballot to a substantial percentage of the electorate in key swing states.

This massive disenfranchisement has evoked a strong reaction from voting rights activists, a number of lawsuits, major internet traffic and front page and editorial coverage in the New York Times. But there has been no parallel campaign to guarantee those votes are properly counted once cast. Despite serious problems with electronic tabulations in the presidential elections of both 2000 and 2004, electronic voting machines have spread further throughout the country. In Ohio, former Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell awarded a no-bid state contract to GovTech—a well-connected Republican-owned company which no longer exists—to help count Ohio’s vote. GovTech contracted with two equally partisan Republican companies: Smartech for servers and Triad for IT support (Push and Pray Voting). Electronic voting machines with ties to Republican-connected companies have proliferated throughout Ohio. Federal money from the Help America Vote Act has helped move electronic voting machines into other key swing states in substantial numbers that are not easy to track.

The machines can quickly tabulate a winner. But their dark side is simple: there is no way to monitor or double-check the final tally. These partisan Republican vote counting companies have written contracts to avoid transparency and open records laws.

American courts have consistently ruled that the hardware and software used in e-voting machines is proprietary. For example, California’s Public Records Act (CPRA) contains a Trade Secret Exemption. The courts in California apply a “balancing test” to determine whether the Trade Secret Exemption applies, but the contracts with voting machine vendors are written in such a way that the court usually has no other choice but to side with the vendors and the state and county election officials who inked the contract. High priced attorneys like Daniel McMillan of the Jones Day firm are often hired to “clarify” the law for the court.

In a filing with the Voting Systems Procedures Panel of the California Secretary of State’s office during the 2004 election, McMillan hammered out a “Stipulated Confidentiality Agreement” that states in part that a public records request by a voting activist “contain[s] confidential proprietary or trade secret information” and thus, is not a public record.

Also that year, McMillan showed up in Georgia on behalf of the infamous Diebold Election Systems company and invoked the Peach State’s Trade Secret Exemption to the open record law. McMillan wrote: “If information constitutes a trade secret under the Georgia Trade Secrets Act, the government agency in custody of the information has a duty to protect the information” from public scrutiny. McMillan goes on to argue that there’s also a Computer Software Exclusion that, “To the extent that any request is made for Diebold’s computer program or software, such a request would not be a valid request for a public record.” Diebold’s attorney cited the concern that “…it makes it easier to sabotage and hack the system and circumvent security features” if there’s transparency. That same year in Ohio, Diebold’s secret pollbook system “accidentally” glitched 10,000 voters in the Cleveland area from the registration rolls. During the 2004 election in Toledo, thousands of voters lost their votes on Diebold optiscan machines that were improperly calibrated or had the wrong markers. How the the calibration and markers work are trade secrets.

So, even the election boards that buy them cannot access their tabulation codes. The bulk of the major e-voting machine companies are owned by Republicans or by corporations whose roots are difficult to trace. WHILE WE STILL HAVE TIME by Sheila Parks of the Center for Hand Counted Ballots ( Article)warns that we enter the 2012 election with no reliable means of guaranteeing that the electronic vote count will be accurate.

In fact, whether they intend to do it or not, the Republican governors of the nine key swing states above have the power to flip the election without significant public recourse. Except for exit polls there is no established way to check how the official electronic vote count might square with the actual intent of the electorate. And there is no legal method by which an electronic vote count can be effectively challenged.

There is unfortunate precedent. In the heat of election night 2000, in Volusia County, Florida, 16,000 electronic votes for Al Gore mysteriously disappeared, and 4,000 were erroneously awarded to George W. Bush, causing a incorrect shift of 20,000 votes. This was later corrected. But the temporary shift gave John Ellis at Fox TV News (Ellis is George W. Bush’s first cousin)an opening to declare that the GOP had won the presidency. NBC, CBS, and ABC followed Fox’s lead and declared Bush the winner based on a computer error. That “glitch,” more than anything else, allowed the Republicans to frame Gore as a “sore loser.”

In Ohio 2004, at 12:20 election night, the initial vote tabulation showed John Kerry handily defeating Bush by more than 4%. This 200,000-plus margin appeared to guarantee Kerry’s ascent to the presidency. But mysteriously, the Ohio vote count suddenly shifted to Smartech in Chattanooga, Tennessee. With private Republican-connected contractors processing the vote, Bush jumped ahead with a 2% lead, eventually winning with an official margin of more than 118,000 votes. Such a shift of more than 6%, involving more than 300,000 votes, is a virtual statistical impossibility, as documented in our WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION (www.freepress.org).

That night, Ohio’s vote count was being compiled in the basement of the old Pioneer Bank building in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The building also housed the servers for the Republican National Committee and thus the e-mail of Bush advisor Karl Rove. Secretary of State Blackwell was co-chair of the Ohio Committee to Re-Elect Bush and Cheney. He met earlier that day in Columbus with George W. Bush and Karl Rove. That night, he sent the state’s chief IT worker home early. The official Ohio vote count tabulation system was designed by IT specialist Michael Connell, whose computer company New Media was long associated with the Bush family. In 2008 Connell died in a mysterious single-engine plane crash after being subpoenaed to testify in the federal King-Lincoln-Bronzeville voter rights lawsuit (by way of disclosure: Bob is an attorney and Harvey a plaintiff in this lawsuit). FreePress.org covered the vote shift in depth. The King-Lincoln suit eventually resulted in a federal injunction ordering Ohio’s 88 counties to turn over their ballots and election records.

But 56 of Ohio’s 88 counties violated the injunction and destroyed their election records. Thus no complete recount of Ohio 2004 has ever been done. More than 90,000 “spoiled” ballots, like those in Toledo, went entirely uncounted, and have since been destroyed. No way was ever found to verify the 2004 electronic vote count. There are no definitive safeguards in place today. In 2008, swarms of election protection volunteers filled the polling stations in Ohio and other swing states. They guaranteed the right to vote for many thousands of Americans who might otherwise have been denied it.

They had no means of guaranteeing the accuracy of the electronic vote count. But Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan all had Democratic governors at the time. Florida’s governor was the moderate Republican Charlie Crist, not likely to steal an election for a party he would soon leave.

At the time, we advocated banning money from electoral politics, abolishing the Electoral College, universal automatic voter registration for all US citizens, universal hand-counted paper ballots and a four-day weekend for voting, with polls worked and ballots counted by the nation’s students.

But as Sheila Parks puts it in her new book, which is subtitled The Perils Of Electronic Voting Machines And Democracy’s Solution: Publicly Observed, Secure Hand-Counted Paper Ballots (HCPB) Elections : “In 2010, ultra-right-wing Republican governors were elected in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin. In several of these states, these governors were not part of a long line of Republican governors. In fact, in some of these states, these governors interrupted a long line of Democratic governors.”

So this year Rick Scott is governor in Florida, Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, John Kasich in Ohio, Rick Snyder in Michigan, Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Jan Brewer is in Arizona. All are seen as hard-right Republicans unlikely to agonize over flipping a Barack Obama majority into a victory for Mitt Romney.

That doesn’t mean they would actually do such a thing. But the stark reality is that if they choose to, they can, and there would be no iron-clad way to prove they did.

Another stark reality: hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to win this election by multi-billionaires Sheldon Adelson, Charles and David Koch, the Chamber of Commerce and other corporate interests. For them, spending a few extra million to flip a key state’s electoral votes would make perfect sense.

While Obama seems to be moving up in the polls, the huge reservoir of dollars raised to elect Mitt Romney will soon flood this campaign. We might anticipate well-funded media reports of a “surge” for Romney in the last two weeks of the election. Polls could well show a “close race”—for Congress as well as the presidency—in the early hours of election day. And then those electronic voting machines could be just as easily flipped on election night 2012 as they were in Ohio 2004.

Would this batch of swing state Republicans do that for Romney.
We don’t know.
COULD they do it?
Absolutely.
Would you be able to find definitive, legally admissible proof that they did it?
No.
Would the courts overturn such a tainted victory?
Not likely.
What could ultimately be done about it?
In the short term: ….nothing.

In the long-term, only a bottom-up remaking of how we cast and count ballots ballots can guarantee this nation anything resembling a true democracy. It is, to put it mildly, a reality worth fighting for.

Bill Clinton and a Chair

What will we remember after all’s said and done with Election 2012?  While we don’t yet know the election’s outcome, one thing’s very clear:  we’ll remember Bill Clinton and a chair.

Surprisingly, the most compelling figures in the Presidential race were not Obama or Romney.  Instead, top honors go to their surrogates:  Bill Clinton and Clint Eastwood’s Empty Chair.

Both candidates took a risk in picking their marquee speaker at their respective party conventions.  Clinton is infamous for going “off message”, while nobody (including Romney) knew what Eastwood was going to say.

Well, we saw how things turned out.  Clinton turned out a magnificent peroration that even provided some invaluable pointers to the Obama campaign (one example:  make Romney’s proposed cuts of Medicaid an issue, because most of the folks who benefit from Medicaid are not poor, but the elderly and the middle class).

As for Eastwood — much like his Empty Chair, I’m at a loss for words.  While I found his shtick hilarious, others didn’t get it.  However, Romney’s problem wasn’t that no one got it — it was that no one got Romney.

By yielding his time to an inanimate object, Romney lost a critical opportunity to re-introduce himself to the voters.

Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton gave a big boost to current President  Barack Obama.

We are defined by the company we keep.  By that measure, whom would you prefer?  Bill Clinton, or an Empty Chair?

On November 6, the voters will decide.

— Gautam Dutta

Eastwooding: Comedy at Romney’s Expense?

I don’t know about you, but I found Clint Eastwood’s satirical tirade against the Empty Chair to be absolutely hilarious.  Amidst all the canned programming of political conventions, it was quite refreshing to see something original and offbeat.  (I especially loved the line on how Eastwood distrusts lawyers who run for President — never mind that Romney is himself a lawyer.)

However, I highly doubt Mitt Romney is laughing — and not because he doesn’t have a sense of humor.  Why?  Because while everybody is talking about Eastwood’s speech, nobody is talking about what should have been the crowning moment of Romney’s political career:  his acceptance of the Republican nomination for the White House.

Like many others, I can’t wait to watch Saturday Night Live sendup of Clint’s “Chair Monologues”.

— Gautam Dutta

Question of the Week: Romney’s Storm

For Mitt Romney, will there be calm amidst the storm?

— Gautam Dutta

Who Picks & Who Pays

We know American politics is quite bizarre, but Paul Begala’s one-paragraph distillation of how we pick the president highlights that bizarreness on a level rarely seen outside the realms of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert:

I did the math so you won’t have to. Four percent of the presidential vote in Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado is 916,643 people. That’s it. The American president will be selected by fewer than half the number of people who paid to get into a Houston Astros home game last year — and my beloved Astros sucked last year; they were the worst team in baseball. Put another way, there are about as many people in San Jose as there are swing voters who will decide this election. That’s not even as many people as attended Puerto Rican cockfights in the past year — although there are obvious similarities.

And Lawrence Lessig notes what a small part of our country’s population pays for our elections:

A tiny number of Americans — .26 percent — give more than $200 to a congressional campaign. .05 percent give the maximum amount to any congressional candidate. .01 percent give more than $10,000 in any election cycle. And .000063 percent — 196 Americans — have given more than 80 percent of the super-PAC money spent in the presidential elections so far.

What do you think of this situation? How would you like to see it reformed? National popular vote? Publicly financed campaigns? Other ideas? Let us know in the comments.

– Justin Gillenwater

Interested in Participating in the Defending Childhood Task Force Public Hearing in Miami?

*This post was originally published at Reclaiming Futures Every Day.

Calling all community members and professionals working with children and families who have experienced violence:

The Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence is holding its third public hearing in Miami on March 19 – 21, 2012. The hearing will focus on children’s exposure to violence in their communities and at school. The Taskforce is interested in hearing from community members and professionals who work with children and families who have experienced violence. They would also like to hear from individuals directly impacted by violence. Members of the public are invited to attend and testify. Those outside of Miami are invited to submit testimoy now through April 24, 2012.

To register for the hearing or to provide oral testimony, click here.

To submit written testimony, click here.

Today: Gulf Update Call

Ed. Note: The below is from our friends at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. We also note yesterday’s post “Wanted: White House AAPI Program Specialist” from this office.

Please join us tomorrow, June 15th, at 12:30 ET for a phone briefing on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Administration-wide response.

As you may know, the President is visiting the Gulf Region today and tomorrow. Joining us on the call to discuss the current situation in the Gulf and the progress of the response and recovery efforts will be Senior Administration officials who are traveling with the President. The call-in information is below.

WHAT: Gulf Update Call
WHEN: 06/15/10
START: 12:30PM ET
CALL-IN NUMBER: (800) 230-1085 (please be sure to dial in 5 minutes early)

Please note that this call is for informational purposes only and not for press.

For the latest information on the spill and the Administration’s response, please see the links below:

Today, NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) also launched a new website meant to be a “one-stop shop for detailed and near-real-time information about the response,” including technical and scientific information. See www.GeoPlatform.gov/gulfresponse for the latest data on the oil spill’s trajectory, fishery closed areas, wildlife and place-based Gulf Coast resources — such as pinpointed locations of oiled shoreline and daily position of research ships

We hope that you are able to join.

A Tainted Thought

Instead of counting sheep, how about counting the millions of barrels of BP oil that have devastated the Gulf of Mexico and the communities that depend on it?

— Gautam Dutta